Kavanagh Trail

1 Patrick Kavanagh Centre

This quiet graveyard is the final resting place of Patrick Kavanagh. The Kavanagh family attended Mass here at St. Mary’s Church and the famous poet is buried in the graveyard, along with his parents and siblings. Religion, spirituality and death were recurring themes in Kavanagh’s work. The church and graveyard feature in several poems, most notably In Memory of My Mother, Father Mat and The Great Hunger. Kavanagh’s novel Tarry Flynn portrays a typical scene at Sunday Mass and includes a fiery sermon by the parish priest castigating the immoral behaviour of local young men. The building is now home to the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, that is dedicated to telling his story.

‘I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard’
In Memory of My Mother

 

2 Parish Hall & Village
Parish Halls were an important social hub in Kavanagh’s time and the regular setting for dancing. An example from Kavanagh’s work is the fictional Dargan Hall. This was the scene of the concert and dance in Tarry Flynn. Tarry has hopes of being asked to recite poetry at the concert, but he is snubbed by the local priest, who considers him an idiot. He tries to gain entry to the hall on the night in pursuit of a woman, but doesn’t have the money to pay the admission fee. Across the road is the Anglo-Norman Motte & Bailey (a fortification that dates from the late twelfth century) while McNello’s Pub in the heart of the village, was frequented by Kavanagh.

‘The hall was packed. John Mangan, with his palms upraised came to the door and appealed to the crowd to go home ‘like good Catholics and go to bed’. Tarry stood on the edge of the crowd and was pushed about more than most because he had his eyes on the vision of himself as he ought to have been — up on the stage reciting. The Outlaw of Loch Leine’
Tarry Flynn (Chapter 7)

3 Church & Round Tower

A monastery was founded here by St. Daigh in the sixth century on the banks of the River Fane. Daigh was renowned as a scribe and master craftsman. There are many references to the monastery in the ancient Annals and according to tradition the funeral of Brian Ború passed by in 1014 AD on its journey from Clontarf to Armagh. The round tower dates from the eleventh century but was damaged in the nineteenth century when a heavy bell was hung from the top. The seventeenth century tomb of the McMahons is one of the many impressive monuments in the graveyard, while the present Church of Ireland was built in 1854.

‘The village of my native place is built around a disused graveyard. In that graveyard stands a somewhat stunted Round Tower. Liveliest spot in the village is that graveyard. Somebody who may be a commercial traveller waiting for a train is going through the graveyard, stumbling over the fallen headstones in the matted grass, reading old inscriptions. The tomb of the McMahons is here’
Evocations of No Importance
(Collected Pruse, p.36)

(Photo by Patrick Cunningham)

4 Railway Bridge & Buildings

The railway came to Inniskeen in the 1850s and for the following century the area around the station and the nearby bridge was a hub of social and commercial activity. Kavanagh’s mother Bridget took the train from here to the weekly markets in Dundalk and Carrickmacross to sell farm produce. Her journeys to the station are evocatively recalled in the poem In Memory of My Mother. Kavanagh himself would have travelled by train to Dundalk and Dublin to source books and magazines, such as the Irish Statesman, a journal
which had a major impact on the budding young poet.

‘I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station’
In Memory of My Mother

railway bridge

5 Mucker

The road at Mucker is the gateway to Kavanagh’s world where we enter the domain of his upbringing and early manhood. Young men, including Kavanagh, would gather at the Chunk House (a former railway gatehouse) in the evenings to gossip and smoke. In Tarry Flynn this is known as Drumnay crossroads, the place where Tarry was accused by the parish priest of co-ordinating loutish behaviour by young men. The House of the Wake features in The Green Fool, when the death of its occupant and the traditional wake is described, while a strip of land between the road and railway was the ‘garden of the golden apples’ in The Long Garden.

‘It was the garden of the golden apples,
A long garden between a railway and a road,
In the sow’s rooting where the hen scratches
We dipped our fingers in the pockets of God’
The Long Garden

6 Kavanagh Homestead

The house where the poet was born and raised and the surrounding fields that he farmed are central points of reference in his work. Originally a one-storey thatched cottage, it was expanded in 1909 into a two-storey farmhouse with a slate roof. It was a lively household, with a large family and regular callers to his father James’ shoe-making and cobbler business. Across the road is the steep incline of Cassidy’s hanging hill with Brannagan’s Gap at its summit. Both the autobiographical work The Green Fool and the novel Tarry Flynn, along with the monumental poetic work The Great Hunger and A Christmas Childhood are largely set here.

‘My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music’
A Christmas Childhood

Home of Patrick Kavanagh

7 Kednaminsha

Kednaminsha National School was built in 1849 by Tristram Kennedy, the agent of the Marquis of Bath. In the 1850s Patrick Kevany, a teacher from Sligo employed here, had a child out of wedlock with local woman Nancy Callan. He was dismissed from his post and left the area, but his son James Kavanagh was raised locally and had a family of his own. Patrick Kavanagh was his eldest son. Patrick and his siblings attended school here, which was the poet’s only formal education. In The Green Fool he describes how his early interest in poetry was sparked by hearing a classmate recite A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century by James Clarence Mangan

‘Listening to Mangan’s poem I was rapt to that golden
time in which poets are born. I felt as though I were in
the presence of a magician, and I was; there was witchery
in some of Mangan’s poetry, it wasn’t normal verse.
Mangan’s poem read by that girl awoke in me for the
first time those feelings that are beyond the reach of reason’
The Green Fool
(Chapter 11: The Well-learned Scholar)

 

school

8 Rocksavage Estate

Rocksavage Estate was owned by the Plunkett-Kenny family in Kavanagh’s time. The large estate house and its adjacent walled garden was typical of the homes of the landed gentry of this period. James Kavanagh leased land here for planting potatoes and Patrick was responsible for cultivating the crop. The field beside the walled garden is the setting for Spraying the Potatoes, a poem that demonstrates Kavanagh’s extraordinary ability to craft verse about seemingly mundane tasks and events. The estate is mentioned in The Green Fool, while the fictional Whitestone Park in Tarry Flynn is based on Rocksavage.

 

‘The barrels of blue potato-spray
Stood on a headland in July
Beside an orchard wall where roses
Were young girls hanging from the sky’
Spraying the Potatoes

 

9 Shancoduff

 

The Kavanaghs expanded their farm holding when they purchased sixteen acres of land here in the 1920s. The young Patrick spent a great deal of time working these fields, travelling here along Brennan’s Lane. The land was poor quality, wet and boggy. Kavanagh kept reading materials in the hedges that he could consult during breaks in his work.
He later said: “as a poet I was born in or about nineteen-fifty five… Thirty years earlier Shancoduff ’s watery hills could have done the trick, but I was took thick to take the hint”. Nonetheless, some of his best-known poems reference these fields, particularly Shancoduff and Innocence.

 

‘The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have foresaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor’
Shancoduff

 

 

10 Billy Brennan’s Barn

The upper floor of the two-storey barn was used as an informal venue for dances and social events in the 1920s before Inniskeen Parish Hall was built. The attractive array of farm buildings here, with their whitewashed walls and red paintwork, is a fine example of 19th century vernacular architecture. Thankfully, the barn has been conserved in more recent times, and the building retains the charm it would have had in the past. The memory of the dances held here has been preserved in one of Kavanagh’s most wellknown poems – Inniskeen Road: July Evening.

‘The bicycles go by in twos and threes –
There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s Barn tonight,
And there’s the half-talk code of mysteries
And the wink-and-elbow language of delight’
Inniskeen Road: July Evening

Billy Brennan's Barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Hours

Monday-Friday 10am-5pm

For information:
042 937 8560
Email: kavanaghcentre@monaghancoco.ie

Ireland’s Ancient East – The Story of Monaghan

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Discover the hidde gems of County Monaghan on this two-day, self-guided tour, taking in ancient monastic sites, unspoilt landscapes, picturesque villages, museum treasures & much more.
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